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Summer to start a day early for Grand Rapids elementary students

The entrance to East Rapids Elementary in Grand Rapids on April 23, 2024.
Megan Buffington
The entrance to East Rapids Elementary in Grand Rapids on April 23, 2024.

The Grand Rapids School Board decided to move the last day of school up for East Rapids, West Rapids and Cohasset elementaries at its Monday, April 22 meeting.

GRAND RAPIDS — The last day of school for students at East, West and Cohasset elementaries will be a day earlier than originally planned.

The Grand Rapids School Board decided on the schedule change at its meeting Monday, April 22.

Students will be let out at the normal early release time Wednesday, May 29, rather than ending the year May 30. The schedule change is meant to allow teachers time to pack, as most are moving classrooms or across town to a new building. The move comes after the district’s decision to change to grade-level buildings for East and West Rapids elementaries amid budget cuts.

Superintendent Matt Grose recommended starting summer early for elementary students at a special meeting April 15, but board members delayed the decision to learn whether all students could end the year earlier. Because of instructional hour limits and contractual obligations, the Board approved Grose’s original recommendation.

Teachers will have the rest of the day Wednesday and all day Thursday and Friday in the last week of May to assemble, pack and load boxes onto pallets to be moved to their new classrooms over the summer. If more time is needed to meet the district’s June 17 packing deadline, teachers would need to return to their classrooms on their own time.

Grose said at the April 15 meeting the district will pay for one day of unpacking, though he acknowledged teachers will likely need to spend additional time emptying boxes during their already busy workshop week in August.

Nancy Schlader, a kindergarten teacher at East Rapids Elementary, told the School Board Monday evening that when teachers moved into East and West in 2020, many packed over 100 boxes.

Schlader pointed to the Hibbing School District, which is also changing to grade-level buildings. Hibbing adjusted its last day of school from May 30 to May 24 to give staff time to move.

“We’re not asking for that many days,” Schlader told the Board. “We understand that taking that last week off might not be feasible for our district, but we feel the extra days of paid time offered after school is finished could benefit both sides.

“ ... We feel it is simply just not possible to pack and unpack and be ready for school to start in the amount of time we are being given.”

She also said the stipend the district is offering for one day of unpacking is less than a full day’s wage.

“We respectfully ask that you reconsider this idea and support your staff by providing us with the appropriate time and compensation for this move,” she said.

Schlader made some suggestions, including moving back the open house in late summer to give teachers additional time to set up their rooms before students and families visit.

“District families are going through enough emotional upheaval. We see it in our kids every day, we hear it from the families,” she said. “... They should be able to walk into welcoming classrooms, knowing the staff are ready to provide their students with the education and support that they deserve.”

Grose said there is still time to figure out details like pay, but it was important to officially make the calendar adjustment, so the community has enough time to plan for the change.

“I had a conversation as recently as today with the union leadership about some other ideas there,” he said. “And so we can continue to work through that if there’s some changes we need to make there to land on a plan that everybody can live with.”

Megan Buffington joined the KAXE newsroom in 2024 after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Originally from Pequot Lakes, she is passionate about educating and empowering communities through local reporting.